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Aston Villa make formal complaint to UEFA following Villa Park violence

Villa have formally complained to Uefa over Legia Warsaw’s conduct following the shocking scenes which marred Thursday’s Europa Conference League tie.

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Police attempt to put out flares that have thrown towards them outside the stadium before the UEFA Europa Conference League Group E match at Villa Park, Birmingham

The Polish club’s supporters are facing a ban from future matches, with European football’s governing body having already launched its own investigation into the worst violence witnessed at Villa Park for decades.

Villa say it followed an “entirely unacceptable and deeply disappointing” lack of co-operation from Legia, which they say increased the levels of danger to police and home supporters.

Four police officers were injured and 46 visiting fans arrested after what police have described as “90 minutes of sustained violence” which began on Witton Lane around an hour before the scheduled 8pm kick-off and resulted in all Legia supporters being barred from entering the stadium.

One officer’s jacket was set on fire after being hit by a flare as visiting fans threw an assortment of missiles. He was later taken to hospital suffering from smoke inhalation.

"This was appalling and completely unacceptable disorder,” said Damian Barrett, assistant chief constable of West Midlands Police.

"What we saw was 90 minutes of planned violence, with one officer saying it was the worst he had seen in 28 years of policing.”

Police have claimed the trouble began when Legia failed to distribute tickets to supporters outside the ground, as had been expected.

Legia Warsaw fans are sectioned off from the home fans by police outside the stadium ahead of the UEFA Europa Conference League Group E match at Villa Park

The Polish club’s failure to co-ordinate ticket collection, which was their responsibility under Uefa guidelines, is among the central reasons for Villa’s formal complaint.

Though the clubs had initially agreed an allocation of 1,700 visiting supporters in September, Legia were informed on November 2 this would be reduced to 1,002 on the advice of the UK’s Safety Advisory Group (SAG) after their fans were involved in violence during a match at AZ Alkmaar, which subsequently saw them banned from the next European fixture at Zrinjski Mostar.

Despite this, around 1,000 ticketless fans are believed to have travelled to the UK, while there were major issues in distributing the tickets which were available prior to kick-off.

It is understood Legia’s representatives remained unaware whether they would accept the ticket allocation as late as Thursday afternoon.

They eventually confirmed they would at around 4pm, just four hours before kick-off. But while tickets were eventually collected by officials just after 6pm, they are not thought to have been given to fans. It is believed a Legia representative handed back the complete batch of tickets to Villa after the match.

When the violence began, Legia released a statement blaming the English club for “exacerbating” the situation due to “restrictive measures” surrounding ticketing. That charge, understandably, has been emphatically rejected by Villa.

The club’s president of business operations, Chris Heck, said: “The lack of cooperation and prevarication from Legia Warsaw officials prior to the match was entirely unacceptable and deeply disappointing.

Empty seats in the stands in the Legia Warsaw away section during the UEFA Europa Conference League Group E match at Villa Park

“This behaviour increased the danger that West Midlands Police officers and our own fans were subjected to before the game and the scenes of disorder from the Legia fans have no place in modern football or civilised society.

“Aston Villa will be making further representations to UEFA in order to ensure that other clubs and police forces across Europe are not exposed to similar serious safety risks at the hands of Legia Warsaw.

Legia supporters were taken into custody for offences including violent disorder, assaulting police officers and weapons possession.

No home supporters were involved in the violence and in his statement, assistant chief constable Barratt thanked them for their support.

He added: "Our officers bravely put themselves in harm's way and I would like to commend each and every one of them for their efforts.

"We are committed to charging and remanding any and all responsible for attacking our officers and endangering the public.

"We had no issues with the home fans and would like to thank them and Aston Villa for their support and kind words last night and this morning.

"The only issues inside the ground last night were from a small number of away fans who had managed to get into home areas.

"We will be liaising with the club and footballing authorities in the coming days to discuss last night's appalling scenes."